Posts from Memory Lane: Having Tea with Your Inner Editor

Thursday, May 9, 2013

These posts were written during the summer while I was in Bangladesh, in preparation for the upcoming academic year. Long story short: when I looked back at the archive, I didn't have the desire  or the time to put them up. But now, since I'm coming back to the blog, I decided that some of them aren't half bad. Read on!

I hate editing. Revision: I hate the thought of editing.

I'm actually quite good at editing itself. I was the smart English nerd who people called upon to edit their papers (and, although I didn't always have time, I would always do it). I like to tear apart sentence structure and re-work ideas and make things flow better. But when it comes to my own work, I recoil.

It just seems too gargantuan to me; starting to edit pages and pages of something that, unlike an academic essay or a short story, won't end for at least a hundred plus pages. And then there's the idea that "if it wasn't good the first time, why bother?" that takes a good kick to root out of there. And then there's the nervousness that, like an invisible presence, the audience is watching over my shoulder, expecting me either to dazzle or drop dead for their spectacle...

Contrary to what I just said, I think that the editing process is actually the most rewarding part of the work. The most taxing, of course, but the most rewarding. There's just a threshold (an action potential, one might say) that must be overcome in order to actually get into the meat of it. For me, the best way to generate that activity is not the most environmentally friendly: I print out a few pages of my pieces (or the whole thing, if it's short) and start marking them up with pen.

Of course, this is also coming from someone who most often writes out her essays by hand and then types them up - another form of forcing myself to edit - so I'm sure that you could probably do well by using Track Changes or something like that also. But I think there's something really neat about having the pages in front of you, physically, and re-ordering or re-structuring them as you move along.

So, what do you do when you're there? During the writing process, we're all about silencing that inner editor, stuffing them in a closet, or dropping them off a bridge. But somehow they must be revived and re-invited to the work when you get to this stage. I like to dissociate myself as much as possible from this person and pretend that I am editing someone else's paper or story. I read the work aloud. I get really vicious. I do things that my more vulnerable and delicate writer side would never do, just to see how it works. Some people call that a disorder, but I'd like to think of it as process.

And that brings me to my final point: process. I think we fear more than anything the idea of having to process something for so long. And creative work has to be processed far longer than essays and blog posts and even some life events. It has to gestate because what you wake up with one morning may not be the same as the next. Therein lies the sense of mystery and emergence in editing - new pieces show up uninvited, settle in, and you just have to integrate them, right then and there.

Be flexible. Invite your inner editor to sit down with you and have breakfast. Think about the possibilities and not the effort. It will come.

It always does.